Dear Friends


Life in a petri dish

July in Paonia is time for cherries, apricots and early morning irrigation. It's time to crank up the swamp coolers and charge down Grand Avenue to jump into what's left of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

But most of all, it's the season for visiting far-flung friends and far-out places. With this spirit in mind, Betsy and Ed Marston, our editor and publisher team, have left us for a month. They'll be traveling around the Northwest for three weeks, then hitting the Colorado Trail for a week of hiking in the real high country.

Meanwhile, back at the feed store, we're putting out an issue that hits close to home: Senior Editor Paul Larmer has written the story of the recent struggle over expanding coal mines here in the North Fork Valley.

One of the key players in the story is Steve Hinchman, a former editor with High Country News, who has headed up the local environmental group for the past five years.

Hinchman's commitment to innovative community activism prompted us to interview him for a sidebar to the coal story. What we got was a provocative critique of traditional, wilderness-focused environmental activism, and a strong reminder that, here in the rural West, our communities shape us as much as we shape them.

For the past 17 years, Paonia and the North Fork Valley have been the paper's petri dish. It's where we put our ideas to the test, and where we watch - and often participate in - small-town culture and politics. Our interactions with the community have made High Country News a yeastier, more grounded paper. Yet we have rarely covered local issues, preferring to look abroad for stories that are emblematic of struggles around the West.

As a result, many folks who live here don't know High Country News. Some confuse us with the weekly High Country Shopper, and stop in to place ads for free straw, piglets or old couches. But with this issue, we're coming out of the closet. We'll be sending copies to every box holder in the North Fork.

This means our roughly 200 local subscribers will be getting two copies of this issue. Please pardon the double-up and pass on the extra copy to a friend.

Visitors from near and far

We've had a steady flow of visitors through the office this month - something that happens every July, even though we pride ourselves on being right on the way to absolutely nowhere.

Dorothy Richards was in town for her 43rd Paonia High School reunion when she dropped by the office. She was also visiting with her son and daughter-in-law, Ken and Doris Richards and the grandsons. She and Doris' mother, Casita Finley of Paonia, added vitality to the July 3 lethargy at HCN.

Jeff Crane dropped by from Hotchkiss, just down river. Jeff is the director of the North Fork River Improvement Association, a group of farmers and landowners working to restore the river - and protect their property. With Jeff was fisheries biologist Pamela McClelland, who works for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Washington, D.C. The foundation funds habitat restoration projects around the country, including Jeff's work here.

Reader Don Bachman from Bozeman, Mont., rendezvoused with his daughter Genevieve at the HCN office. Genevieve and her friend Gary Candido both work at the Crested Butte Academy over the hill, and Genevieve is interning as a midwife.

Also from over the hill was Aaron Soulé, the head cook at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic. This will be Aaron's 13th summer working at RMBL, but he's spent summers there since he was a toddler with his father, conservation biologist Michael Soulé. Aaron's friend Luiza Przewodnikowska ("It's pronounced 'Smith,' " she jokes), originally from Poland, now from Yuma, Ariz., is studying hummingbirds at RMBL this summer.

A year ago, Sue and Brad Leonard moved to Copper Mountain, Colo., from Washington, D.C., where she worked for the National Education Association and he for the Interior Department. They say they've noticed a big difference: When they jog in Copper they run into wildlife; in D.C., when they jogged they'd run into demonstrations.

Suzanne and Brian Kauffman and their eight-week-old daughter Anna dropped in from Nederland, Colo.

Sarah Krakoff also visited with her family. Sarah works on environmental and Indian law at the University of Colorado Law School with longtime friend Charles Wilkinson. Her husband, John Carlson, was with her on this mini-vacation, and so was five-month-old Lucy.

Reader Mike Gooch came through town with all of his possessions stuffed into his car. Until recently, Mike was an editor at the Flagstaff, Ariz., TV station KBPX. He's now looking for a change of scene.

Robert Philleo, a man whose calm demeanor makes you believe in the benefits of meditation, stopped in. Philleo, semi-retired from a variety of humanitarian and environmental pursuits, now spends six months of the year in Crestone, Colo., and six months at the Insight Meditation Science Center in Barre, Mass.

Writer David Williams swung through town while on tour for his beautiful new book, A Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country. While we admired the guide (it's full of watercolor paintings of flowers and animals found in southern Utah) Williams and his wife Marjorie Kittle gave us the goods on several former interns whom they know from their days at the Canyonlands Field Institute in Moab, Utah:

Ex-staffer, and Paonia's first HCN intern Mary Moran is writing curriculum for the kids' education program at Arches National Park. Peter Mali, who is doing public relations for the BLM's new national monuments, has just married. Ross Freeman is finishing his masters in conservation biology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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